No PGA virus protocol changes likely after Rahm forced out

·3-min read
No changes in US PGA Tour Covid-19 safety protocols are likely despite Spain's Jon Rahm being forced to withdraw from the Memorial tournament on Saturday with a six-stroke lead after returning a positive test

Do not expect any US PGA Tour Covid-19 protocol changes in the wake of third-ranked Jon Rahm testing positive and being forced out of the Memorial with a six-stroke lead.

The 26-year-old Spaniard tested positive for Covid-19 on Saturday and a re-test to check the result also returned positive while Rahm was walking to the 18th green in Saturday's third round at Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio.

Rahm was devastated at receiving the news just after walking off the 18th green. He was forced to withdraw and will be in isolation through June 15 under PGA Tour Covid-19 safety protocols.

That will limit his ability to prepare for the US Open, which begins June 17 at Torrey Pines.

"I will take all of the necessary precautions to be safe and healthy and I look forward to returning to the golf course as soon as possible," Rahm said in a statement on Twitter.

Andy Levinson, the PGA Tour senior vice president of tournament administration, said it was the fourth time during a tournament when a player returned a positive test, but the first time it happened when a player was on the course.

"In those other situations, those individuals had become symptomatic and notified us when they woke up and we tested them and had a result before they teed off," Levinson said.

It is unlikely the tour will consider changing safety protocols, developed in conjunction with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to allow for situations such as Rahm faced by having a player compete without spectators or other golfers, Levinson said.

"We have followed our medical advisor's recommendations on this, and that is not something that any medical advisor that we worked with has suggested, that we would allow someone who is actively infected to participate in our competition, where we know that," Levinson said.

"And it wouldn't be in line with the CDC's protocols as well, so I don't see us changing that particular protocol."

Rahm will be paid some money to assist with lost earnings and the cost of 10 days of isolation, but he'll never know if he could have turned a stunning third-round eight-under par 64 and a six-stroke lead into his sixth tour title.

Rahm had matched the tournament record for 54-holes at 18-under 198 and the biggest 54-hole lead in Memorial history just before being forced to withdraw.

Memorial host Jack Nicklaus, an 81-year-old golf legend and winner of a record 18 major titles, was stunned by the turn of events after a day of spectacular shotmaking by Rahm.

"I feel very bad for Jon Rahm. He has played absolutely brilliant golf this week," Nicklaus tweeted.

"There was no choice for the tour or Jon. On behalf of the Memorial Tournament, our hearts go out to Jon and his family, as well as all the patrons who witnessed a spectacular round by Jon -- only to be negated by this horrible pandemic our world continues to endure.

"I wish Jon a speedy recovery and hope he gets back to competition soon."

- Most players vaccinated -

Rahm was told on Monday he had been in close contact with someone who had tested positive for Covid-19 and elected to play with social distancing, daily testing and limited access to indoor facilities.

Rahm tested negative from Monday through Friday, then returned a positive result Saturday that was checked a second time and found to be positive as Rahm hit his approach to the 18th green in the third round.

Levinson said Rahm would not have had to undergo contact tracing testing had he been 14 days past his full vaccination cycle, unless he developed Covid-19 symptoms, and that most tour players are fully vaccinated.

"Fully vaccinated population is north of 50%," Levinson said. "That's really starting to increase significantly over the last two weeks and I expect it to continue."

js/iwd